How We Wrote ‘Please Do Not Feed The Ducks’

 In Behind The Scenes

We’re overwhelmed by the positive response that our short film Please Do Not Feed The Ducks (PDNFTD) has received recently. We’re so happy that our audiences are loving our stupid little comedy – we made it for you.

After winning Best Script at Short+Sweet Film Festival Queensland and Best Screenplay at Freshflix Film Festival – we thought this could be a good opportunity to chat about the script for the short film. Plenty of people have approached us to chat about our inspiration and processes – so why not lay it all out here. Click the link at the end of this blog and we’ll send you a PDF version of the script we used on the shoot day.

Pearce used to live nearby Centennial Park in Sydney and walking past the duck pond gave him the first inspiration for PDNFTD. A sign was installed instructing people to not feed the ducks anymore. How would the ducks feel about that sign? Would you bend the rules if the duck was charismatic enough? The first notes for the script laid out the basic structure which remained mostly consistent throughout development.

We love the comedy of Monty Python (who doesn’t!), Edgar Wright and of course The Simpsons. We feel like the balance between absurd and mundane is what makes truly funny scenes. Looking up to these writing geniuses have driven us to this point and we will keep pushing further to make bigger, better and funnier projects.

The scene plays out simply: Guy comes to feed the ducks, but an official sign forbids it. He sits on a bench and is approached by a duck who wants the bread. Guy wants to feed the ducks but doesn’t want to break the rules. So now it’s up to the duck to change Guy’s mind with different tactics, and Guy to resist with different excuses.

We consciously made sure that no two arguments were repeated: “Can I have some bread?”   “No, I can’t give it to you.”   “Please, can you give me the bread?”   “No, I told you I can’t give it to you.”   “I really want some bread.”   … That reads pretty boring doesn’t it? Each time, the duck must come up with a new reason for Guy to hand over the bread, and Guy needs a brand new excuse. It challenges us as writers and drives the scene forward to keep the audience engaged.

Sometimes, your favourite joke or line just needs to go. It hurts, but if it doesn’t exactly fit the rest of the story, it’s got to go. We had line in our original script: Guy says “I can’t man, I’ve got priors.” We felt this was a funny reason to not feed the ducks – he’s got in trouble before – but in discussions with Gabriel Stoltz (Guy), we found that it completely goes against his character and motivation. So it was cut.

No matter how much love and attention goes into your script, your actors will find new and unexpected ways to tell your story. We had the pleasure to work with Gabriel Stoltz and Donnie Baxter who brought an incredible energy and a new perspective to our script. There’s plenty of extra tiny gags that the duo improvised on the day – including a subtle cigarette movement. Filmmaking is a collaborative art form, and our best work is work that’s created together.

Don’t get it write right, get it written. Just start by vomiting all your ideas onto paper. You’ll get into a flow and let your mind explore creatively. Come back and fix mistakes later – now is the time to make, mistakes or not.

Make the time. Set some time aside in your day to just write. Leave the phone in the other room, turn off the internet. Just make it happen. John Cleese gave a brilliant lecture about how to give your creativity the chance to soar – it’s incredibly inspirational.

Only write what’s on screen. Screenwriting is different from writing novels. Firstly, there’s a specific structure (which we can share in a future blog) – but you need to be clear in intention. Only write exactly what is happening on screen. Nothing more.

Please Do Not Feed The Ducks is screening next at West End Film Festival. We’ll be in Session 2 on June 24th. We always love your support, so grab tickets here and we’ll see you at the festival.

If you’d like a copy of our script, send us an email here and we’ll send you the final version we used on the shoot day.

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